I do not believe that President Donald Trump would condone or desire an El Paso shooting, but I do believe his carelessness with dangerous rhetoric creates an environment where such events are more likely, and that he therefore must share some blame. Morgan Liddick’s commentary (“Murderers and Mentors” published Aug. 12 in the Summit Daily News), which asserts that a politician should not be held accountable, or partially accountable, for an atrocity carried out by a supporter, is missing the point. Of course we do not hold Sen. Bernie Sanders responsible for the shooting of Steve Scalise by a Sanders supporter in 2018. Sanders has never made any comments a reasonable person would view as inciting that act. The same can be said of former President Barack Obama and the shooting of Dallas police officers by a Black Lives Matter supporter, and of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in regard to the recent Ohio shooting by a Warren supporter.
But the same cannot be said of Trump. Liddick, do you really believe that Trump’s language in his speeches and tweets has not incited violence in the sick minds of susceptible fringe individuals? Trump has repeatedly referred to Hispanic immigrants as rapists, killers and generally unworthy. He has referred repeatedly to “an invasion” of Hispanic immigrants.
Has Trump’s rhetoric elevated the ideas of white supremacists, mainstreaming talking points that in some less stable minds warrants a violent response? I believe it has. Does this behavior encourage individuals such as the El Paso shooter? The evidence seems to point there, given in part that the El Paso killer explicitly stated his actions were in “response to the Hispanic invasion.”